Bahrain draws closer to Israel

The King of Bahrain, Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa is said to have catagorically denounced the Arab boycott of Israel and opened the way for his subjects to visit the so called Jewish homeland.

The king’s pronouncements were revealed  at the Simon Wiesenthal Centre in Los Angeles  by American Rabbis Marvin Hier and Abraham Cooper, who head the Centre. They said they received the statements from the king himself during a visit they made to Bahrain at the beginning of the year, adding that they received permission to make the King’s feelings known to the public.

Although Bahrain does not have diplomatic relations with Israel,  King Hamad is reported to have told Hier and Cooper  of his plans to establish a museum of religious tolerance in Bahrain by the end of the year.

Hier and Cooper spoke enthusiastically about their visit to Manama, the capital of Bahrain, and of the prayer houses they saw representing the major religions: a church , a Hindu temple and an ancient synagogue, standing alongside the city’s many mosques.

The son of the Bahraini king, Sheikh Nasser bin Hamad Al Khalifa, also spoke at the event in Los Angeles, where the Bahrain National Orchestra played Israel’s national anthem “Hatikva” preceded by the Bahraini and US national anthems.

King Hamed of Bahrain

The event itself was devoted to religious tolerance and the struggle against terror and violence. Members of all of the religions were in attendance, and all listened respectfully to each national anthem.

The concept of religious tolerance is not new to the Gulf region, both Oman and the UAE keenly promote the idea and both have donated land on which churches have been built for the use of Christian communities.

In recent years, as it has become increasingly threatened by its own Shia community and the close proximity of a hostile Iranian leadership, Bahrain has begun to slowly externalize its relations with Israel.

However, most of Bahrain’s pro-Israel activity takes place through the heads of the Jewish community in the United States, in order to stay close to Washington and earn points in the White House. Qatar is also very active in this sphere, as the country is under a Sunni blockade in the Middle East.

The Bahraini statements constitute a rare but significant victory for Netanyahu. High-placed Israelis have, in recent years, hinted at the fact that Israel conducts “underground” relationships with its Middle East neighbours, including those with whom it does not have diplomatic relations. Netanyahu himself confirmed during a recent visit to New York  that Israel will not tolerate an Iranian foothold in Syria. “An [Iranian] military presence endangers not just us, but “also our Arab neighbours”, The Israeli Prime Minister said.

This edited article first appeared in Al Monitor

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